Photo by: Mira Zimet

Report for America announces initiative to place local reporters in California newsrooms

Urgent Initiative Fueled by a Collaboration with the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and Grants from the Annenberg Foundation and McClatchy Foundation

Report for America is launching a special initiative to address news deserts in California, with the goal of placing 10 reporters into local newsrooms in 2019 and 20 in 2020.

News deserts are spreading in California, leaving millions of Californians without basic information and accountability reporting. Since 2004, 73 newspapers have closed in the state, according to a report released last week by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Report for America has previously done a regionally focused corps in Appalachia. This second regional initiative marks the beginning of a major effort to create similar state-focused, locally funded reporting corps in the rest of the country.

The initiative has taken off thanks to seed grants from the Annenberg Foundation and the McClatchy Foundation, and a collaboration with the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism to provide training and support. The program is continuing to raise funding in order to place the full squad of reporters.

“There is a crisis in local news in California,” said Cynthia Kennard, executive director of the Annenberg Foundation. “This innovative program will help make a real difference. We urge other funders who care about the health of California’s communities to join the effort.”

The acclaimed program has placed 13 reporters around the country and plans to place 28 in the field in 2019. The program pays half the reporter’s salary, with local newsrooms and local donors picking up the other half.

“This infusion of young reporters will support basic accountability reporting around the state,” said Willow Bay, dean of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. The school will provide intensive training and support for the corps members.

Report for America will take applications from news organizations around the state who want to host Report for America corps members. To win the right to host the reporter, they will have to demonstrate that there is a civically important gap in coverage and that they have a strong plan to deploy new reporting resources in the public interest.

The corps members will be a mix of journalists from California and around the country. 

“We’re grateful to the Annenberg Foundation and USC Annenberg for supporting this time-sensitive effort to plug some serious gaps in coverage in California,” said Steven Waldman, president of Report for America.

Report for America is an initiative of the GroundTruth Project, a nonprofit group that supports young journalists around the world. “There are so many news deserts in California,” said Charles Sennott, CEO of The GroundTruth Project and co-founder of Report for America. “These extraordinary young journalists are going to really help fill these gaps, and strengthen democracy in the process.”